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Arangetram: Kavya And Usha Kolukula

Sayontika Bhattacharya and Annette Varghese

Arangetram of Kavya and Usha Kolukula 
by Sayontika Bhattacharya and Annette Varghese

On July 22nd, the highly anticipated Arangetram of Kavya and Usha Kolukula was presented under the banner of The Bharathakalai School of Dance, at Shri Lakshmi Temple. After years of hard work and discipline, an Arangetram marks the dancers’ ascension to the stage. The mother-daughter duo finaled the 2023 Arangetram season for their Guru, Jayshree Bala Rajamani. Kavya and Usha were supported by a talented musical ensemble comprising their Guru on Nattuvangam, Smt. Harini Darbha on vocal, Smt. Sushmitha Ravikumar on violin  and Shri Mahalingam Santhanakrishnan on mridangam. 

The Arangetram commenced with a Pushpanjali in Ragam Arabhi, where Kavya and Usha offered flowers to the Nataraja. They started off joyously, with strong and steady footwork in salute of Ganesha, destroyer of all obstacles. They immediately followed this dance with an Alarippu, a dance that shows the blossoming of the dancer’s body. Kavya and Usha used dynamic choreography in this traditional dance set to Thishram, three beat cycle.

Shortly afterwards, Kayva and Usha presented the Jathiswaram in Ragam Vasanta, a pure dance piece. Each Jathi was synced beautifully between the two dancers, and the fast paced choreography showcased their stamina. 

After the Jathiswaram, Kavya and Usha moved onto the Shabdam, in Ragam Ragaamaalika. The Shabdam warms up the dancers’ powers of Abhinaya and storytelling. Usha and Kavya gave a soulful performance taking the audience through the eyes of a young Nayika in love with Shiva. Both dancers beautifully communicated joy, sadness, wonder, and excitement. 

Arriving to the most challenging dance in an Arangetram, Usha and Kavya presented their Varnam in Ragam Nattaikuranji. The dancers showed four stories, each showcasing the power and mercy of Lord Shiva. Since they were a duo, both dancers played different characters, which allowed for dramatic storytelling. Kavya portrayed the fearsome Yama, god of death, as well as powerful Shiva, and pitiful Nandanaar, showcasing her strong Abhinaya. Usha portrayed graceful Parvati, fearful Markandeya, and gracious Nandi. For their last story, the dancers skillfully combined the feminine and masculine elements of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, to show the concept of Ardhanareeswaram. Both dancers also showed immense technical skill in intricate footwork and choreography. 

Following an intermission and costume change, Usha kicked off the second half of the Arangetram with a solo. This dance was on the almighty Goddess, and praised the sound of Om. Usha performed Om Kara Karini, set to Ragam Lavangi, with powerful expressions, truly embodying the Goddess. 

Together on stage once more, Kavya and Usha then performed the brilliant dance Jagadhodharana, set to Ragam Misra Kaapi. This dance shows the relationship between Yashodha and Krishna, making it a beautiful mother-daughter dance, one which Kavya and Usha truly struck a chord in the audience's heart with their beautiful expressions. 

Next, Kavya performed her own solo on Goddess Lakshmi. In Bhagyada Lakshmi, Kavya portrays a dancer welcoming the Goddess Lakshmi into her home. This dance was set to Ragam Shree. Kavya presented this dance with such grace, and completed the creativity of this dance with her charming expressions.

Kavya and Usha ended their spectacular performance with a Thillana in Ragam Dwijawanthi followed by a Mangalam. This Thillana featured the music and flute of Lord Krishna, alongside the complex patterns of footwork and pure dance. Following right after the Thillana, the Mangalam is a traditional dance that salutes God, the Guru, the Musicians and the audience. Kavya and Usha received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience for their wonderful performance.

Speaking of their personal Arangetram experience, Kavya and Usha said that, “The Arangetram was a precious moment in our lives. It was special not only due to the fact that it was a once in a lifetime event, but also since we shared the stage as a mother-daughter duo which is a rare occasion by itself. It was a dream come true for the mother and a beautiful memory for the daughter. We feel blessed by the divine for giving us such a meaningful and wonderful experience.”

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